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Atrocity could be described as a band who started off quite strong as a part of the 'first wave' of German death metal, producing two well-liked and solid records before seemingly falling off the deep end into one of the most overt 90s identity crises I've encountered. Specifically their 1994-1996 period it seemed like the band had absolutely no fucking idea what direction they would stick with. Blut is an amalgamation of miserable groove/death metal and Goth metal bits, Calling the Rain dabbles in folk/doom metal with ethereal female vocals, Willenskraft shows an unwillingness to step entirely away from their death metal roots, and Die Liebe (possibly the best of the lot) has them teaming up with the legendary industrial duo Das Ich to create something with both the industrial and Goth components. All of this was of course the setup for their Werk 80 album of popular cover tunes, which was one of their more successful discs, and then they'd actually go on to become a rather coherent Gothic/symphonic metal act with pretty high production standards, but the mid 90s was mired in utter turmoil by their two worst effort. Blut is, unfortunately, one of them...
It's rather a pity, too. My first exposure to the group was a mint cassette copy of Hallucinations I picked up in 1990, the days when I would literally purchase every recording I found with a death metal logo, in any store. It was solid stuff, nothing exceptional like what the Florida/Sweden scenes had produced, but another of those formative harbingers of the notion that the genre had gone viral worldwide, and that it wouldn't be long afore that world caught up. As such, Todessehnsucht did not disappoint: mildly less brutal and vital, but compensating with catchier songwriting. Naturally, I held some excitement out for the follow-up, Blut, since Atrocity really hadn't had their breakthrough yet and from external appearances it looked as if it might be some theatrical concept record about vampires. The logo superimposed over the curtain on the cover even appears to be the same one used on the movie posters for the '92 Dracula film adaptation starring Keanu Reeves, Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins. Turns out, that same movie did in fact inspire the theme here. Seemed like a good fit to me, even if it was still a pretty fresh flick...a European death metal band cutting its teeth on Bram Stoker's horror...that works, right? Oh no, my friends. Oh...no. Very, very wrong, for Blut is a prime example of poor decision making in the decade that threatened to destroy it all: the 90s.
The shock I felt at this is comparable to that towards another German death metal band, Morgoth, on their later offering Feel Sorry for the Fanatic, where they mutated into a more melodic industrial rock band. I mean, apart from a few of Alexander ('How did he get this awesome name?') Krull's barks and grunts, and a few of the death metal breaks littered through the 15 songs and 64 minutes, this bears almost no resemblance towards the group's earlier albums. Instead, it's a scatterbrained transformation into a mixture of 'woe is me' Gothic metal tropes and bouncy, annoying groove metal riffing which lost its way from aping Prong into a catacomb of tremendously dumb, uninspired riffs and vocals that stand out far too far and sound immensely goofy over the tinge of the rhythm guitar tone. What's more, Blut is front-loaded with some of its shittiest tunes...if you dig deeply enough, you'll find there is actually some passable material in the track list, which foreshadows their direction at the turn of the century and beyond, but in getter there it stumbles over some truly terrible songwriting which remains the nadir of their career (alongside Calling the Rain...let me not forget my venom for that one). And while lyrically this album seems well attuned to its subject matter, of eternal life, horrible appetites, insatiable lusts and being forsaken by the divine, left to walk to the earth as a beast, the musical riffs and structures are generally too obtrusive to allow for full immersion.
Imagine you and I are sitting at our local theater, soles stuck in last week's derelict popcorn butter, hearts full of anticipation for this new blockbuster starring one of our favorite actors (an actor's actor!) as the big heel, and the opening act is this shitty, bouncing chug rhythm that sounds like a castaway from Prong's Cleansing. That describes "Trial", a crappy groove/thrash dud that has no fucking business here or anywhere. While I might forgive just the one, then the record lurches into "Miss Direct", a strange BDSM number driven by farting, dorky bass lines and clinical nu-thrash rhythms drowned in some of Krull's worst vocals ever. What the fuck is this? It's hard to hone in on any potential fetish-erection when your song sounds like a bunch of clowns visiting the Red Light district and honking hooker-boobs like they were toy horns. To top that off, they transition back into ANOTHER pseudo-Prong/Pantera groove metal tune ("In My Veins"), and like the opener, pretty much the only saving grace are the methodical lead sequences which hearken back to their older style. We're now about 12 minutes into Blut and there's no relief in sight from the horrors; Atrocity finally living up to their name, but not in the manner they likely intended. It's honestly one of the most pathetic 1-2-3 combos I've heard on a neo-death metal record outside of Massacre's abysmal Promise.
But then, like a breeze of air freshener greeting you in amidst the stench of a nightclub restroom, "B.L.U.T" itself arrives, a mesh of glittery progressive metal melodies and synthesized Gothic choirs, quality arch-like bass lines and Krull's clean baritone vocals interspersed with the angrier grunts that resemble Christofer Johnsson on Therion's superb Lepaca Kliffoth. It's not exactly magic, and I still the tinny crunch of the rhythm guitar here as much as the prior tracks, but such a dramatic improvement in terms of interest-level. It gets stranger, as Blut seems to wobble back and forth between a myriad of ideas, several traipsing back into Todessehnsucht territory and failing, others like the folk/ballad "Calling the Rain" (oh yes, it appeared first) implementing clean guitars with tinny effects, and Krull's sister Yasmin making her appearance with some pretty standard Euro-ethereal vox not unlike a less jubilant Liv Kristine (of Norway's Theater of Tragedy), who ironically would end up marrying Alexander. There's a song in German ("Leichenfeier") centered around some plodding riffs that sounds like a doom metal Lacrimosa variant. The strange Prong-ish tunes continue ("Moon-Struck", "Goddess in Black"), there are several instrumental interludes like the acoustics of "Soul Embrace", but there never seems to be any real sense of coherence to the material, except that so much of it is weak. Blut is not a confusing album, but a 'confused' one, and it speaks volumes that the best song on it is a 90 second bass and guitar instrumental which captures the atmosphere of a moonlit light better than anything else here.
At best, the Goth elements here served as precursors to records where they delved far more consistently into that style, like Gemini and Atlantis or the more recent symphonic/Gothic/death metal hybrid Okkult which is actually one of their best. Stylistic disparity isn't Blut's only crippler, because I found the production of the guitars here to be just too clean, tinny and robbed of any real meat or power. Again, I draw a comparison to Prong, particularly Cleansing, though that album had richer rhythm guitar riffs, superior songwriting over all, and of course was handled by Terry Date who has a decent track record. The drum mix here is also pretty bland, the bass lines rarely interesting, and while I do enjoy Krull's more melodic rantings thanks to the edge and gravitas his death metal origins give them, he's simply too loud on a good portion of the album. The lyrics, while not perfect, seem to do a decent job of getting into the mindsets of vampires or other characters with a lot of Anne Rice's eloquence. The reader can feel these are Romantic, tragic tellings, now if only the music could have more successfully met that benchmark, then Blut could have been well ahead of its time, at least in the Gothic metal field. But the ball was dropped, no, shattered on the cracked, ivy-wrung pavement, and nothing here holds up to any scrutiny. Weak guitar tone, uninspired riffs (even the few delves back into death metal feel pitifully non-evil), and at times sheepishly silly vocals that were unlikely to get Krull laid at the same clubs Peter Steele was attending.
I don't fault Blut because it was an experiment. It's not that Atrocity was 'ashamed' of its death metal roots, and decided not to pursue that genre directly through the remainder of the 90s (listen to Willenskraft or some of the tunes off later albums), but they obviously felt a cloying impetus to branch out into new territory, and not to restrict themselves. It worked out for them eventually, because they dove straight into that emergent European goth metal scene to some accolades...who exploring that stuff at the time didn't stumble across one of the Germans' covers of obvious, dramatic 80s pop songs? Inevitably, I feel like Atrocity did turn themselves into a respectable band once more, and even in these fragile times, they had some success (Die Liebe and Willenskraft are both worth hearing, if not exceptional). That said, Blut remains as a giant warning sign: covered pits ahead, do not tread these paths, do not travel these roads, and if you ignore this advice, bring a grappling hook. I've never lied about my feelings on albums before, and I'm not about to start: this is pretty god-damned bad. Listen to them! The children of the night. What sweet music they don't make.
What a huge disappointment! With their previous releases Atrocity had become one of my favourite technical death metal bands. However, somewhere along the way the band apparently decided that being a godly technical death metal band wasn’t cool anymore and so they changed style radically. As you can see from my score, the change was definitely for the worse! The music has lost nearly all of its former technicality and about 95 % of its brutality as well. For the most part “Blut” consists of music that can be described as lame and pseudo heavy attitude/numetal and weren’t it for a couple of bright spots, I’d have given this album a zero.
What you get here is mostly simple mid-tempo songs with chugga-chugga riffs, groove and limp-dicked wannabe tough guy vocals. The first three tracks and “Moon Struck” are the purest examples of this style and each one of them is so horrible that I almost burst into tears when I listened to “Blut” for the first time. The only positive thing is that the beginning of “Miss Directed” resembles that of Asphyx’s “Diabolical Existence”. Otherwise this track is truly awful, with Alex sounding almost like he’s rapping! Also shouted lines such as “Miss Directed, c’mon!”, “Miss Directed, bring me up!” and the “crowning” achievement “One, two, FUCK YOU!” serve the purpose of increasing the jump-da-fuk-up factor to the max. And yeah, this was back in 1994 when numetal wasn’t even established yet! Anyway, I’m not going to go on about these four tracks anymore. Let’s just say that they were like a punch to the solar plexus.
“B.L.U.T.” is the first track that shows a glimpse of promise. It starts in a doomy manner with the bass high in the mix and some nice bass lines from Markus Knapp, actually creating a dark feeling. However, this feeling of darkness only lasts until 1:30, when the track turns into numetal garbage with some horrible shouty vocals and uninspired drumming from Michael Schwarz who doesn’t get to show almost any of his real skills on this album. “I’m in Darkness” may begin with shitty chugga-chugga riffing but despite this it’s one of the few listenable tracks on the whole album. It even carries death metal influences in the form of double bass drumming, blastbeats (yesss!!!) and some of the riffs. Alex’s vocals are almost growly during parts of this track, proving that he’s still got it if he only puts his mind to it. However, as a whole “I’m in Darkness” of course pales when compared to Atrocity’s previous output.
“Calling the Rain” was some kind of hit for the band. Well, to me this acoustic song with female vocals added sounds about as interesting as “Nothing Else Matters”. The fact that it’s too long and repetitive as well doesn’t help either. “Ever and Anon” is a track which is almost tolerable. It has some heavy riffs, fairly technical parts and a nice solo section. Therefore it’s too bad that Alex’s horrible shouty “badass” vocals manage to ruin a lot of the feeling in this song. I can’t for the world understand why he chose to use such vocals on this album when the truth is that they sound like shit. Oh yeah, and they just HAD to put some chugga-chugga riffs into this track as well, dammit! “Begotten Son (of Wrath)” is another almost tolerable track (if we look away from the chugga-chugga parts) due to some pretty complex rhythm changes and riffing that hint at the band’s former death metal glories. However, the last part of the song lapses into total numetal mode and I quickly lose interest.
“Leichenfeier”, “Goddess in Black” and “Threnody (the Spirit Never Dies)” are the best songs on “Blut”. The first is a doom metal song with heavy, almost sludgy riffs and narration plus haunting clean operatic vocals. It’s a total surprise to hear a good track such as this on an album that is mostly really crappy but as I said in the opening paragraph, there are a few bright spots here. “Goddess in Black” sounds pretty much like “Lepaca Kliffoth” era Therion (minus the symphonic elements). On this track also Alex’s shouty vocals sound quite like those of Christofer Johnsson on said album. “Threnody (the Spirit Never Dies)” is a heavy and technical track, probably written during the band’s earlier days. Had Alex sung this track with death metal growls, it would’ve been fantastic.
While there are hints of death metal on some tracks, these are practically always countered and watered down by the numetal parts and vocals. The band probably had some old death metal stuff left over and then decided to mix it with this numetal style. Too bad it doesn’t work, the mixture they present here is simply... atrocious! Another thing I really hate are the female vocals, since the female vocalist doesn’t sound good at all. I can’t shake the feeling that the band decided to include female vocals just to show how open-minded (or whatever) they are, as I’m of the opinion that the female vocals actually make the songs where they are used sound worse. The aforementioned factors make it impossible for me to enjoy the vast majority of this album.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about “Blut” is that it has some kind of a vampire concept and according to the band’s Myspace page “enables the listener to feel the dark scenery and fascinating atmosphere of Transylvania”. I can only say that I got absolutely no Transylvanian vibes at all. Instead I saw visions of pseudo metallers with piercings, dressed in hoodies with numetal band logos and pants three sizes too big running through the streets.
"BLUT" is one of those thematic releases which cannot be appreciated fully on a song by song basis, but taken as a whole comcept is very well thought out and brilliantly conceived. It's true that the release got an unfortunate hatchet job when it was remasterd onto cd from the vinyl/cassette master; there are bad cuts made on songs that were segued on the vinyl, leaving some songs sounding like they were cut off before the song ended, and that disrupts the entire continuity of the release, but the songs are all very strong, even the atmospheric passages add alot to the dark, vampiric evil vibe of this great disc.
The lp starts out strong with "Trial," a heavy, thrashy prelude to the subject matter that is further explored on every song, that being the unyielding brutal nature of vampiric attitudes and actions. Mathias Röderer and Richard Scharf handle their layered guitar parts with absolute deadly persision; the guitar sound on this album is very sharp, eq'ed to a very piercing higher mid-range growl and bite. The vocals are less death oriented than on the "Longing For Death" release, but they suit the subject matter very well, and the lyrics are very, very intelligently crafted. For instance the lyrics to "Miss Directed" can offer two distinct meanings: they can be taken at face value, or the darker implied meaning of mis-directing another persons attentions away from where they need to be. The entire album's lyrics are full of double meanings and insinuations of a very dark and cruel nature. I think alot of people miss that aspect of the album altogether.
The best songs on this release by my telling are the first two on what was originally the second side of the album/cassette (I had both,) but are tracks 8 & 9 on the cd: "Ever and Anon" and "Begotten Son Of Wrath." Both of these songs bristle with overflowing energy and guitar flash, rock-solid drumming as well as the entire rhythm section. "Begotton Son Of Wrath" starts out with a sample from the gore movie classic "Dead Alive" which is the source of all the samples on this disc, and samples are used better than any I've ever heard. The song is a violently brutal downward chromatic progression with the 'b' and 'c' sections playing variations on the main theme; a method of composing which is most often seen in classical music. That also adds to the very heavy gothic feel of this release, an imaginative person can be utterly transported to another age by the completely thorough job the band does of making this a themed work of art.
This album is not for people who just want to put in a disc and hear some brutal music; it is a piece of art in that every note and every moment of silence is purpose-written to convey a meaningful aspect of the artist's vision; in that respect it as much like a book as it is a piece of music. The listener MUST use their imaginations to understand what this album is trying to convey.
There are some tracks like"Leichenfeier" that will just aggravate the passive listener, but if you've been paying attention to the songs before it, it will be seen that it adds alot of purpose to the songs that come after it; this album, again like a book, is best understood and appreciated only if listened to in order. This album is very heavy, full of great playing on everyone's part, brilliant lyrics and vocals, and is one of the most artistic statements in death metal in my opinion.
PLEASE don't let other people's lack of understanding steer you away from this release (IF you can find it,) it is full of majestic and powerful death metal.
It pains me to think how a band can go from something as awesome as Todessehnsucht to something as shitty as Blut. This album is an excruciating, overlong mess of psuedo-metal mixed with lame hard rock and punkish crap, meandering through endless boring bullshit with nary a trace of inspiration to be found. Somehow these guys managed to craft one of the greatest death metal albums of the early 90s, replete with awesome infusions of classical and doom metal, then fell ass-over-face and seemingly forgot how to play their instruments.
If you need to find out how bad this is, just download the song "Miss Directed" if you can actually find anyone insane enough to have it available in the first place. This pathetic attempt at an S&M anthem features some of the most tone-deaf vocal blurtings since Max Cavalera accidentally sat on the machine-head of his 3-string guitar and wedged it up his asshole while recording Chaos A.D. Except Sepultura had a few half-decent riffs left on that mediocre album, whilst Atrocity seemingly made a painstaking effort to throw away anything vaguely memorable before recording this steaming mountain of wildebeest excrement.
I paid $3 for this CD a long time ago and owned it for 2 days. I forget whether I sold it back to the store for $1 or simply threw it in the trash. It's testament to the awfulness of this album that to this day I can clearly remember the disgust and disappointment I felt while listening to it. At nearly 64 minutes, i'm surprised I didn't kill myself while doing so, but even more surprised I made it to the end. I don't remember the last few tracks though, since I guess by that stage my brain had simply shut down to avoid further trauma. Avoid this album at all costs. If someone attempts to give it away, beat the shit out of them and rape their mother. If this band had any ounce of dignity they'd dedicate the rest of their lives to locating every existing copy of this CD and smashing them all with a hammer, then burning them so no more crimes against humanity can be committed by its extraordinary lameness.